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Insect Identification Key
Class Collembola: the springtails and snowfleas

This globular springtail (family Sminthuridae) is a tiny organism. The collophore and furcula are out of sight, but its long antennae are clearly visible. Photo credit: Tim Evison. Click here to see examples of more members of this interesting order!

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your specimen as being in the class Collembola!

Members of this class include: springtails and snowfleas.

Etymology: Collembola comes from the Greek words kolla, which means glue, and embolon, which means peg. This refers to the tube-like structure on its ventral (belly) side. The structure was once thought to be an adhesive appendage, but scientists now know that the organism uses it to excrete fluids.

General characteristics:
• small
• usually eyeless
• wingless
• soft-bodied
• possess a forked springing organ, called the furculum, on the ventral side
• possess a tube-like structure, called the collophore, on the ventral side
• six or fewer abdominal segments
direct development (nymphs and adults nearly indistinguishable)

Click here to see examples of more members of this interesting class!

This illustration shows two characteristic features of members of this class: the collophore (center), a tube-like structure used to secrete fluids; and the furculum (lower left arrow). The furculum is a springing organ. The organism holds the furculum against its ventral (belly) side with a latch. When the latch releases, the furculum releases, snaps against the ground and sends the organism into the air. Illustration credit: Leslie Mertz.

Number of recognized species worldwide: about 6,000


Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Subplylum Hexapoda
         Class Collembola
            Order Poduromorpha
            Order Entomobryomorpha
            Order Neelipleona
            Order Symphypleona

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Classification note: Like members of Diplura and Protura, those in the class Collembola are not insects. These three groups are sometimes listed as orders and combined together within a class called Entognatha (see next paragraph). Along with insects, which are in the class Insecta, they make up the subplylum Hexapoda, a reference to their six legs. Formerly, Protura, Diplura and Collembola were grouped with the order Thysanura into the class Apterygota, and you may still come across this old classification system. The three orders were removed from class Apterygota once scientists determined that they were not in the evolutionary lineage of insects. In other words, these three groups — Diplura, Protura and Collembola — did not give rise to modern-day insects.

Scientists are still working out the tree of life for Protura, Diplura and Collembola. Most authorities place them into their own classes: Class Protura, Class Diplura and Class Collembola. Some authorities, however, group them together under one class called Class Entognatha, and still others put only Protura and Collembola in the Class Entognatha and place Diplura in its own class: Class Diplura.

Although their name might suggest otherwise, snowfleas aren’t fleas. True fleas on in the order Siphonaptera. Snowfleas are in the order Collembola.

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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